What Is A Business Playbook?

Chris Ronzio

August 28, 2021

With a business playbook, your team stays aligned, and you can hold your people accountable. Plus, you can finally scale your organization successfully.

But that all starts with having all your top plays documented in one place! That way, everyone is playing by the same rules, and anyone can play any position. 

So, let’s break down everything you need to know about building a winning business playbook!

🔥 Tip: Want to take a look in VaynerMedia’s Gary Vee and 15-time NBA All-Star Shaquille O’Neal’s playbooks? Then, join us on September 30 for Playbook 2021, the ultimate small business virtual summit.  Register for free.

What is a business playbook?

A business playbook (sometimes called a company playbook) houses all your company’s processes, policies, and standard operating procedures (SOPs) in one place. And it outlines exactly how your business does what it does – down to each role, responsibility, business strategy, and differentiator. 

Meaning, when your team has a business playbook, they don’t have to guess how to do their jobs. They know exactly what’s expected of them and how to get it done. 

Think of it this way. When you buy a new car, you get a giant user manual. And this manual teaches you everything you’ve ever wanted to know (and maybe a few things you never needed to know) about your new investment.

Your playbook is that user manual for your business! It outlines all your company’s tribal knowledge and makes it so anyone on your team can complete any task. But most importantly, it keeps your business running smoothly.

Here’s the catch – unlike a car manual, you need to build your playbook yourself. And this includes keeping it up to date as your business evolves.

Does my company need a playbook?

Regardless of size or industry, every business needs a playbook to run smoothly and scale successfully. And it should be filled with all your documented processes, policies, and procedures.

After all, championship sports teams win because they have the right players and a solid playbook. And scaling your business is no different!

Of course, you need a roster filled with top talent. But you also need all your top plays documented, so your processes and policies exist outside your head. And anyone can run them. That way, what your business does is scalable beyond just you.

That’s because with a business playbook: 

  • There’s only one correct way of doing things, and everyone is aligned on it.
  • You can actually hold people accountable for doing things that way.
  • Your operations become more reliable and replicable, so you can finally scale.

But, without a playbook, you run the risk of your business looking less like a championship sports team and more like your kindergartner’s soccer team. Everyone running after the ball and crashing into each other, trying to win. 

For example, imagine you’re out sick this week. And none of your responsibilities are documented (or your team doesn’t know where that documentation is). That means your responsibilities don’t happen. 

Or, it means the rest of your team guesses how they do things – and they’ll likely make a mistake. And while making a mistake on, say, a social post might not be a big deal, a mistake in payroll could be.

But how do you make sure it’s a winner?

Go to the can’t miss small biz event, of course! Yep, we’re talking about Playbook 2021. Join us throughout the day on September 30 to steal winning plays from today’s biggest names in small business. 

This year’s line-up features the likes of VaynerMedia’s Gary Vee, 15-time NBA All-Star Shaquille O’Neal, and Cocokind founder and CEO Priscilla Tsai – just to name a few. We’ll be announcing even more speakers in the coming weeks.   

And in case you missed last year’s event, Playbook makes one promise: To put winning plays in your business playbook. But don’t just take our word for it. One attendee last year said it was a “no bullshit day packed with good speakers and only useful information.”

 The best part? The event is always 100% FREE. All you have to do is save your spot.

👉 Don’t miss out! Register for Playbook 2021 today. 

Can’t make the event? No worries – sign up anyway, and we’ll send you a recording after so you still get all the winning plays!

Where should I build my playbook?

In Trainual – the world’s best business playbook software (duh).

Trainual keeps your playbook in one centralized place so everyone on your team can access the plays they need when they need them. Plus, it gives you a jumpstart on documenting your top plays with over 100 (and counting) world-class SOP templates

We realized early in the game that tons of companies are documenting the same areas of their business, just with a slightly different spin. 

So, we put in the grunt work and built the outline of all the most popular business policies and processes for you. Or, for more niche SOPs, we leaned on top industry leaders to make sure we got those right too!

That way, no matter what policies, processes, or procedures your business needs, we got you covered. And all you have to do is customize them to fit your business’ needs – and you get it done in half the time.

👉 Start building your business playbook in minutes with all of the easy-to-customize SOP templates. Grab the templates.

Who on my team should actually build it?

Short answer: your subject matter experts (or, as we call them, subject owners). Note the plural. 

While you might be the business owner or leader, that doesn’t mean you need to build the playbook all by yourself. In fact, you shouldn’t! 

Here at Trainual, we strongly believe that building your business playbook is a team sport. Meaning, everyone should document the piece that they’re responsible for – and nothing they’re not. 

This might mean whoever leads your HR team will document your hiring process and how you source great candidates. Meanwhile, whoever runs your company’s training will document how to create engaging training content. That way, building your playbook doesn’t all fall on one person (even if that person isn’t you). 

For one, this will keep building your business playbook from feeling overwhelming. But it will also ensure your playbook is filled with only the best and most up-to-date information. I mean, seriously, who knows how to do something better than the person who actually does it?

🔥 Tip: With Trainual’s Subject Owner feature, you can easily assign content to the people in charge of each procedure or policy. That way, they’re held accountable for documenting and updating their pieces. And you can be sure that your playbook actually gets filled with your top plays!

How to build your business playbook

Building your playbook can feel like a big, burdensome project that you’re unsure how to tackle. But honestly, it’s a lot easier than it sounds. 

That’s because even if you don’t have a single process or policy documented (yet), you already have them built out. Our proof? Your business already operates. And you’re already shipping your process or delivering your service. 

That means you have policies and processes built out. Now, you just need to capture them in your business playbook! Here’s how (in 3 easy steps):

Step 1: Audit your company processes

First, start by auditing what you do. Meaning, write down every process or procedure that your team runs regularly. 

To make sure you capture everything, divide and conquer. Pick one person in each department (AKA your subject matter expert) to champion their team’s documentation. 

Then, have them conduct one-on-one interviews with everyone on their team. These interviews should capture who does what and how exactly they do it. 

By asking your team directly about what processes they own, you’ll make sure nothing gets forgotten. After each interview, have them send their notes, the recording, or however they capture the conversation to you. That way, you can just gather all the information in one place. 

Step 2: Organize the information

Once you have all the information in one place, edit it so anyone can understand it. So, no jargon, no skipping steps, and no assuming prior knowledge. Fill in every gap you can think of in simple, conversational language. But with that being said, don’t be afraid to cut duplicate steps. 

As you go through processes, some of your team members might do the same role. But they’ll likely each do the role a little differently. One of them will do it best, most efficiently, and most effectively. Only edit this version and put it in your playbook. That way, you can standardize the process so it delivers more consistent results moving forward.

Then, organize the edited information in a way that makes sense. Here at Trainual, we like to organize processes and policies by the departments that need them. Meaning, we have one collection of processes that everyone needs and another that only one team needs. 

For example, our voice and style guide is available to everyone at the company. Because everyone writes emails and talks about our company in one form or another. This makes sure we all use similar language and techniques. But only our content team needs to understand how we format content and build it out on our website. So that goes into our marketing team’s playbook. 

Step 3: Share your playbook

As you finalize parts of your playbook, start delegating them out to people. Ideally, this will be someone who’s not super familiar with the process. Give them the documentation, and see if they can run the play with only what you have written in your playbook.

🔥 Tip: Assign your company’s processes to your team with one simple click in Trainual. And set due dates to make sure that they review it by a specific date. That way, they’ll know exactly what to review and when to review it. So, they can be held accountable for doing so. Try for free.

The first time this person goes through the process, they’ll likely have some questions. Pay attention to what they ask because that will let you know where you have gaps in your documentation. 

For example, if the team member doesn’t know how to tell whether the process is done, introduce the expected outcome earlier in the process. If they ask why you have a step, consider if that step actually matters. And if they have to guess at any point in the process, you’re missing details or a step altogether. 

Using that information, go back and use their questions to improve your documentation. Then, hand it off again to someone new until they come back with the expected outcome and no questions. 

Building your business playbook is an iterative process. So, it’s not something you do once perfectly, then never talk about again. Instead, it’ll take a few shots to get right. 

Even then, you’ll have to come back to refine it from time to time – or change it altogether when the process evolves. Otherwise, this great resource will soon be out of date. And everyone on your team will be back to playing by their own rules. Which is the last thing you want for your business.

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Steal the top plays in small business

Join us on September 30 for Playbook 2021, the ultimate small business virtual summit. And sneak an exclusive peek at VaynerMedia’s Gary Vee and 15-time NBA All-Star Shaquille O’Neal’s business playbooks!

Register for free